By John J. Hawk, Sr.
A few words from the author
It's sad but true. A large percentage of Americans suffer from a blemish on their credit reports. A blemish that prevents them from obtaining new credit when they need it most. Bad credit is embarrassing, humiliating, and depressing because most credit ors believe a bad credit report dictates a persons worth and value as a responsible human being.
Most people with bad credit are not "deadbeats" nor are they unwilling to pay their obligations. In fact, if your like most people, you probably maintained a good credit profile until an unforeseen circumstance like a layoff, medical problem, or divorce prevented you from making a few payments in a timely manner.
The truth is that most people struggle long and hard to meet their obligations but the money coming in just doesn't meet the bills going out. If you find yourself in this type of situation, you must be very careful and selective about which bills get paid. If the circumstances become serious enough, you may even have to file for bankruptcy protection.
You are not alone. You're not the first person to decide to put food on the table or keep the electricity on rather than paying a credit card bill. You can be sure that most people would rather protect their family and their loved ones first, and then pay their creditors. Even the collection agents, the ones that call and harass other people about their obligations, would certainly protect themselves first if faced with the same tough decision.
Now, by knowing, understanding and utilizing your legal rights you can begin taking the steps of regain the good credit you once had and reward yourself with the confidence necessary to rebuild your financial independence and freedom. Of course you must protect your new credit report with honesty, integrity, and common sense.
So, as you begin your journey to establish a new credit report, I would first ask you to stop feeling guilty about your previous inability to pay your creditors. It may or may not have been your fault. That is and will remain in the past. Look forward to a new start, new credit report, and a new chance.
As publishers, we are not engaged in giving any legal or accounting advice. If you desire and want professional legal advice, please go to our Legal Services Page to get the legal representation you need at a price you can afford.
- John J. Hawk, Sr.
Unfortunately today, we live in a society that determines our net worth and value as a human being by the type of credit file we have. If your credit report is good, chances are you will receive and partake of some of the better things in life. But the opposite couldn't be more true if your credit report is bad. There are very few creditors who will extend good credit to people with bad credit.
But what if it wasn't your fault? What if you had to make the simple choice between eating and making your car payment? What if a job lay-off, a medical emergency, or some other personal crisis prevented you from making a timely payment? Should you be forced to pay for this for the next seven to ten years?
The credit bureaus are judge and jury in relation to your credit file. But there is one difference. A judge will at least give you the chance to defend yourself in court before passing judgment. And in America we are SUPPOSED to have a chance to face our accusers BEFORE judgment is passed. This is entirely untrue when it comes to your credit file.
The truth is that your creditors and the credit bureaus have been swapping information about you behind your back for a long time. You are not asked or given any benefit of defense when this happens. It is in effect legal gossip!
The system, as it stands today, does not give you the opportunity to defend yourself before inscribing your credit file with negative information, even if it is not yours! You must prove to them that the negative information on your credit file is incorrect, invalid or otherwise erroneous before they will remove it. That means in their eyes, you are GUILTY until proven INNOCENT.
You might wonder how a system like this is allowed to operate in our DEMOCRACY, in a country where we've been brought up to believe that a person is innocent until proven guilty. Why aren't we extended some courtesy by the credit bureaus? Why don't they give us a chance to defend ourselves before placing negative information on our credit files?
Good questions, aren't they? You may not like the answer though... THEY DON'T HAVE TO! The credit bureaus are private companies and corporations. They are in business to make a profit. And that profit comes from one place and one place only:
Your creditors pay to see your credit file information and believe it to be true and correct. They also reciprocate by exchanging your credit information with the credit bureaus. So... your creditors pay the credit bureaus and the credit bureaus are in business to make a profit. Where do you fit in? You don't.
Unfortunately you are just another number in the vast data bank of numbers. Your credit report and the information it contains are not important or of any consequence to anyone but you. That's why you are the only one that can do anything about it.
Well my friend, that's why I put this information together and developed this unique program. I have seen too many people destroyed by the credit reporting system. I have watched helplessly by the wayside as their credit files were corrupted and their self dignity was destroyed in the process.
So many people with poor credit have done their best to make timely payments but couldn't because of a personal problem or another. Should they pay for this both financially and emotionally for the next seven to ten years? I don't believe so. I believe everyone deserves a second chance. I believe that you deserve a second chance, no matter what the previous circumstances were. Put those problems behind you now. It's time to move on and re-establish a good credit file.
YOU CAN remove past negative information it will take time and tenacity. The process is simple but it's not easy. It will take some work on your part, but if you're serious about getting a second chance, you won't mind.
Congratulations! You are about to take the final steps necessary to begin a brand new life with good credit! Study the material, use the information and get a new start!
A Few Comments On Credit Repair Companies
Over the past fifteen years or so, many "Credit Repair Companies" or "Credit Clinics" have opened up across the nation. Their main purpose is to help the individual remove incorrect and negative items from their credit report. Unfortunately, some of these outfits are scams from the word "GO" and have given the whole industry a bad name. They take the consumer's money and then tell them it will take month s to get results, then disappear without a trace. With the information we have provided you with here, you have no need to take that chance. If, however, you decide to hire one of these companies, check them out!
First, if the sales person or company uses the word "Guarantee" or "Delete", Run and don't look back! There is no way to "Guarantee" that ANYTHING will be removed from the credit report! Think about it for a minute. Unless he or she is going to "hack" into the credit bureau's computer, how can he guarantee anything? The Clinic is NOT the one that "deletes" the information!
Ask to see their license, get a copy of it, and then contact your State's Secretary of State to make sure that the company has obtained and maintained the necessary license and/or bond. In the State of Nebraska all companies, organizations, or individuals that provide credit services MUST (with NO exceptions) obtain a "Credit Services Organization License". If they charge a fee BEFORE they provide the services they promise, they MUST also maintain a $100,000 Surety Bond for TWO YEARS after they cease doing business in the state. While you are on the phone with the Secretary of State's office, ask if there have been any unresolved complaints against the company. Find out how long they have had their license as well.
There have been a number of credit clinics that guarantee to remove any derogatory items from consumer's credit report.
Contact the Attorney General's office in your state as well, see if there have been any complaints and find out if they are under any kind of investigation. The Better Business Bureau is also another good organization to check. My company wasn't just LISTED with the BBB, we where actually members of the organization as well.
If the firm tells you that you can not take a day to think about it or that it is a 24 hour offer tell them to take a hike! They where trying to scam you! Tell them that you want a copy of the contract you will be signing and any disclosures so that your attorney can take a look at it. If they balk, again, good for you, you just flushed out another con-artist. Call the Attorney General to have them investigated so no one else will fall into their trap! To have unlimited contracts reviewed by an attorney, and tons of other legal services, please visit our Legal Services Page.
For five years I owned and operated a company here in Omaha that not only assisted individuals and families re-establish their credit reports and obtain new forms of credit; but we also helped establish a budgets, and save money. The last two items were more important than the first two! If nothing else, TIME will repair a damaged credit report. But without the proper savings and budgeting, the smallest disruption in an individual's cash flow will destroy the BEST credit report. In fact, the "better" the credit, the more potential for damage there is!
I will encourage you to go to your local book store and obtain a book on budgeting. Talk to a family member, friend, or clergyman to get help on setting up and sticking to a budget. One of the reasons people run into the credit situations they do is because when the emergencies hit, there is nothing to fall back on. Don't let it happen again! Protect your good credit and your good name!
Ten Greatest Myths About Your Credit
Credit Bureaus are empowered with some kind of governmental authority.
Credit bureaus have no legal authority at all, they are simply private companies who are in the business of selling credit information.
The credit bureaus are required by law to keep derogatory items on your credit report for 7 to 10 years.
There is no law that the credit bureaus report anything on you at all. Just the opposite is true! Credit bureaus are required by law to automatically remove all derogatory items older than 7 years or in the case of a bankruptcy, 10 years.
It is impossible to get a bankruptcy off.
Bankruptcies come off just like any other derogatory that is incorrectly reported, obsolete, erroneous, misleading, incomplete, or that cannot be verified. Remember, the nature of the item has nothing to do with its removal under the Fair Credit Reporting Act.
The information on your credit report cannot be changed.
The opposite is true under the Fair Credit Reporting Act; both the federal and various state laws REQUIRE that items be removed if they are not 100% accurate or cannot be verified in a timely manner.
It is illegal or immoral to have the information on your credit report altered or removed.
Not only is it not illegal or immoral, but it is what the Fair Credit Reporting Act is all about. It was enacted by congress for the very purpose of protecting consumers from the intrusion of the credit bureaus into our lives.
Paying a past due debt removes it from your credit report.
Just because you pay an old debt does not change or erase the fact that at one time you were not paying on it as you agreed. Can this record be changed? Absolutely!
Inquiries are not derogatory and will not affect your credit standing.
Anything that erodes your financial credibility is damaging to your credit standing. In the case of inquiries, one or two is not too bad, but any more than that and they begin to tell a story of their own. Any prospective credit grantor will look at your credit report and think that you are desperate for credit.
If you get a derogatory item removed, it will just come back
. Not if it is removed legally. When it is removed with cause under the Fair Credit reporting Act it cannot legally be placed back on your credit report. The same law that required its removal prohibits it from being placed back on.
The past equals the future.
This is the biggest myth of all. The concept that once bad, always bad, or at least for 7 years is totally false. Anybody can run into hard times or an emergency situation now and then, but that doesn't automatically mean that they are a poor credit risk for a magical 7 years. The simple truth is, no credit report can predict the future.
I can't repair my credit report myself.
Yes, you can! And you will find all of the information you need to do it right here! The simple truth is you don't have to live with bad credit or pay thousands of dollars to have it corrected.
The History Of Consumer Credit
Before you establish your new credit identity, it is important to understand how the credit reporting system works, how it operates and how it affects you.
The roots of consumer credit goes as far back as man can remember. It starts with someone or some business having a product or service to sell. Either the price of the product is beyond the reach of the average person or payment for the product is not convenient at the time of sale and that's what gives birth to a consumer credit program.
Take, for example a moderately priced automobile at $13,500. The manufacturer, in order to make a profit, needs to sell many vehicles at this price. But how many of us can plop down $13,500 in one lump sum?
If the manufacturer only sold automobiles to people who could afford to pay in one lump sum, he would sell very few cars. Consequently, the price would skyrocket from $13,500 to let's say $113,500, due to the manufacturer's need to make an equitable profit. On the other hand, the manufacturer couldn't make any money if he sold the same automobile for $400.
So the manufacturer needs to sell the automobile at a price consistent with perceived value and quality, but still make it available to people who don't have the entire $13,500. That's why the automobile loan business is so big.
Let's take a look at another example. Actually, this next example is rooted deep in our history. When the payment for products or services is inconvenient at the time of sale, a merchant (or creditor) typically offers payment terms, usually within 30 days.
This type of consumer credit can be traced back to the General Store days when a patron would typically pick up a few things, charge them to an open account and agree to pay the entire account by the end of the month.
Those days are pretty much long gone, replaced by major credit cards and department store cards. But the principle is still the same. The only difference today is that theoretically you never have to completely pay off a charge account. As long as you pay the interest on the account or the minimum payment, you can continue to charge to this account, up to the credit limit, without ever paying off the original debt. This is how a lot of people get into serious trouble and consequently damage their credit files almost irreparably.
As an evolution of this process, it was natural that some kind of credit reporting system would emerge.
Creditors became concerned that they were doing business with a consumer who would repay their account in a timely fashion, and had proven timely repayment with other creditors as well.
So the credit bureaus were born and began to track credit information on individuals and businesses, selling that information to subscribers (creditors) and receiving information as well.
You should understand that the relationship between the credit bureau and the subscriber can (with your permission only) receive information about your current credit status. But, in exchange, the subscriber must provide payment history and account information to the credit bureau. This, however, transpires without your permission.
In other words, only you can authorize access to your credit file but once you have, your creditor has carte blanch to report any credit information on your file he chooses, even if the information is incorrect!
The Credit Bureau System
Note that the credit bureaus are private, not government credit reporting companies. All three companies are listed on the New York Stock Exchange. They are in business to make money just like any other business.
Their business is to store information reported by many creditors, and in turn, sell back credit bureau information to those same companies. The more credit data that the credit bureau can provide on any individual is to their advantage.
How Credit Bureaus Get Their Information
Companies that subscribe to the credit bureaus' services send credit history to the credit bureau. Updates are sent by the creditor to the credit bureau periodically. It should be noted that since the creditors report at different times to each credit bureau, different amounts and dates can appear on each reedit report. Many times this information is reported incorrectly and inaccurately.
Creditors that report to the credit bureau are most often banks, savings and loans, mortgage companies, large department stores, finance companies, VISA and MasterCard banks, oil companies and companies that are members of the credit bureau.
Credit bureaus also get their information from public records such as the local courthouse. This information may include judgments, bankruptcies, tax liens, wage attachments and notice of default on properties. It may be noted that the credit bureau may pick up from the public record a notice of default but later fail to record the correct information if the default was corrected.
In reviewing your credit report you may notice that much information is missing or inaccurate. The reason for missing information is that not all creditors belong to the credit bureau. For example, if you are paying off a bill with a small store, and they are not a member of the credit bureau, your good payments will not be reported on your credit report. For a small fee, you are able to list this good credit on your credit report.
The Credit Bureaus
Across the Nation there are three major credit bureaus; TransUnion, Equifax, & Esperian (TRW). There are, however over 2,000 smaller credit bureaus located in every medium size city in the United States. Because each of these smaller credit bureaus may or may not be affiliated with one of the "Big Three", they will have different information in the consumer's credit file. When you apply for credit, a creditor might check only one credit file. If they find anything derogatory on your credit report, they probably will not check with the other credit bureaus.
If you are denied credit, the creditor, by law, has to let you know which credit bureau has the negative information. However, the other credit bureaus may also have the incorrect information. Therefore, when checking your credit you need to look at all of the credit reports.
The three major credit bureaus are:
TransUnion (410) 712-0034
P.O. Box 390
Springfield, PA 19064
Experian (formerly TRW)
P.O. Box 2104
Allen, TX 75013-2104
P.O. Box 740241
Atlanta, GA 30374-0241
Ratings TO Accept
PAID IN FULL AS AGREED
CREDIT LINE CLOSED BY CUSTOMER
NOT RATED (TO NEW)
DISPUTED (only if you feel that it is the best you can get)
DISPUTE AFTER RESOLUTION (same as above)
Ratings NOT TO Accept
DISCHARGED BY BANKRUPTCY
DISPUTE AFTER RESOLUTION
WAGE EARNER BANKRUPTCY
Your Credit Report And Rights As A Consumer
Under the Federal Fair Credit Reporting Act, you:
May obtain a credit report from the credit bureau for a reasonable fee ($8 to $15).
May obtain a credit report from the credit bureau at no charge within 30 days of being rejected for credit. You must send a copy of the rejection letter to the credit bureau.
May be represented by anyone of your choice at the credit bureau.
May dispute any information on the credit report that you feel is listed incorrectly. The credit bureau must re-investigate the information and within a reasonable time, verify the information. A reasonable time has been construed to be 20 working days by some credit bureaus.
May have derogatory information such as late payments and judgments taken off the credit report within 7 years. Bankruptcies will come off in 10 years.
May place a 100-word consumer statement in your file to tell your side of any derogatory information.
May have the credit bureau notify those you name (at no cost to you) who have previously received incorrect or incomplete information on you and provide them with the corrected credit report.
May have your credit report withheld from anyone, who under the law, does not have a legitimate need for the report.
May sue the credit bureau if it willfully or negligently violates the law.
The above nine items just list a few of your consumer rights.
The Federal Trade Commission
The federal Trade Commission is responsible for correcting any credit report problem which a consumer has not been able to correct through the credit bureau.
Federal Trade Commission
Pennsylvania Avenue & 6th Street, NW
Washington, D.C. 20580
California : 450 Golden Gate Ave., San Francisco, CA 94102
California : 11000 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90027
New York : 26 Federal Plz., New York, NY 10278
Texas : 8303 Elmbrook Dr., Dallas, TX 75274
Illinois : 55 E. Monroe St., Chicago, IL 60603
Ohio : 668 Euclid Ave., Cleveland, OH 44114
Washington : 915 Second Ave., Seattle, WA 98174
Colorado : 1405 Curtis St., Denver, CO 80201
Georgia : 1718 Peachtree St., Atlanta, GA 30367
Massachusetts : 150 Causeway St., Boston, MA 02114
If you feel there is a violation of your credit report, you may write to the nearest FTC office with a copy of it going to the FTC, Washington, D.C. office.
Don't expect the FTC to take an active interest in your case. They are there to monitor the credit bureau and only to take an active interest in the problem if there are many complaints about the same problem. If you have written the FTC, continue working to correct or restore your credit during this time.
Analyzing And Disputing - The Repair Process
Disputing information on your credit report...
This method is for direct correspondence with the credit bureau. If you find anything inaccurate, incomplete, incorrect, or obsolete, you have the right to dispute that item on your credit report.
The credit bureau then has a reasonable time to contact the creditor and have them verify the disputed item. A reasonable amount of time under the Federal Law has been construed to be 20 working days. However, you need to understand that with this type of transaction, it could take from four to eight weeks to receive your reply back. Technically, if the credit bureau does not respond back within 30 days, the incorrect or inaccurate item must be removed. If, after the credit bureau investigates the item and the information is found to be inaccurate or no longer can be verified, the credit bureau must delete the item in question.
It should be noted that when a negative item is more than two or three years old, many creditors will not respond to the credit bureau because of lack of records. Therefore, by law, the bureau should remove the item from your report. Since most creditors do not have the space to retain records for a long period of time, there may not be any documentation about your payment history.
Understand also that the creditor does not have to provide documentation to the bureau of the disputed item. They simply check various boxes on the statement as to whether you were late, paid on time, etc.
Steps to Dispute
Get your credit report.
Review your credit report.
Decide which items you want to dispute
Always hand write your letters in your own handwriting.
Keep copies of all correspondence.
Keep separate file copies on each credit bureau.
Follow up if needed.
Make sure that when you dispute items on your credit report you do not dispute more than three items at a time. Get those corrected before you dispute three more. Persistence and patience are what you need to get the job finished. Just remember that it usually takes years to get incorrect or inaccurate information ON your credit report. Therefore, your credit report will sometimes take many months to completely clean up.
It is important that you keep copies of all correspondence going to and from the credit bureaus. Also keep separate folders for each credit bureau. That will mean three folders if you are disputing information on each credit bureau. (Example: Type your label to say: Esperian (TRW) Correspondence; Equifax Correspondence, and TransUnion Correspondence.)
If you do not receive a letter back within 3 to 5 weeks, send a follow-up letter along with all previous information. Credit bureaus are required to send you the results along with an updated credit report.
Areas of Dispute
Account Paid as Agreed - After reviewing my credit report, I found where "Account name" and "Account Number" was paid in full and as agreed. Your rating is inaccurate. Please change this information immediately to reflect the current status.
Charge Offs - I paid "Acctount Name and Account Number" as agreed. You show this as a charge off, which cannot possibly be correct. Please correct the way you are reporting this. (Charge offs are an amount the department store has written off as a bad debt. It is then listed on the report as a charge off).
Not Mine - I do not recognize this account, nor have I ever been associated with them. "Account Name and Account Number" needs your complete attention. Please conduct your investigation and remove this from my file. Use this sparingly and only if all else fails. The creditor DOES NOT have to investigate further after locating your information (specific dates, amounts, etc...) They simply have to find your SS#, DOB, Etc...)
Late Payments - I was never late paying "Account Name and Account Number". I have always paid this account as agreed and on time. Please update your information.
Collections - This cannot be accurate. I have never had any of my accounts go into collection. Please review and remove from my file.
Judgements - I have never had a judgment against me, and you show I have two of them Case # and Case #. Please review and remove from my file.
Tax Liens - This is not mine. I was not aware of this until I received a copy of my credit report. Please review and remove.
Bankruptcy - This is not my bankruptcy. I have never filed bankruptcy. Please review and remove. The bankruptcy listing is not correct. Please remove. (Note that the dollar amount or date may be incorrect. Make the credit bureau verify the amounts. They may or may not be able to verify the amounts or the date). I want all items that are included in may bankruptcy removed from my file, which I have marked. I have included a copy of the itemized list of creditors included in my bankruptcy for you to compare. Thank you.
The credit bureaus have been known to leave the item on the credit report, but to flag the items covered under the bankruptcy. An example would be: Sears $100.00 (BK). They also have been known to delete the item altogether. The bureaus have not been consistent with this method, however most credit bureaus will tell you that it will stay on the report with the (BK) notation.
Disputing Information Directly With The Creditor
This method is somewhat like writing letters to the Credit Bureaus, however, the difference is that the dispute letters are sent directly to the creditor. One thing to remember is that the department stores, banks, etc. have the power to take anything off a credit report that they have placed on a credit report.
A number of things must be included in the creditor letter. Please give the store your account number. State exactly what the problem on your credit report is, and why it should be removed. Ask the creditor to verify the amounts. Demand that they correct or remove the incorrect item.
Unlike the dispute letter method, this type of letter can be typed out rather than written.
If you feel that you are correct and cannot seem to get anywhere, ask to talk to a higher supervisor. The higher the supervisor, the more in tune they are to profits; stores want to keep your account, and you as a customer.
At some point it may be beneficial for you to have your attorney write a letter to the creditor. Many times just the threat of a lawsuit will get the creditor to change the credit rating.
Remember, that if the creditor placed it on the credit report, they can take it off. Having an attorney write a letter may cost you somewhere between $75 and $100.
Many times stores will not keep records past 24 months and cannot find the information. Therefore there is a good chance it will be removed.
One more option when dealing with creditors is if you have not paid a bill in full with them. The fact that you owe them money can work to your advantage. Most, if not all, creditors would rather get some money instead of none at all. This is true from banks to oil companies. Be willing to negotiate with your creditor.
Approach the creditor with the idea that you would like to settle your account difference. Probably you do not have enough money to pay him in full or you would already have. For example, let's say you owe a department store $100. The department store may have already charged it off and reported it to the credit bureau. Offer to pay the store $50 to settle the account with the understanding that they will also remove the negative mark on your credit report.
The store can either say yes or no to this proposition. If they want a little more than $50, you will have to decide how high you can go and still stay within your payment schedule.
Subscribers have the ability to change your credit rating with the credit bureau. Many will tell you they cannot change the rating, but that is just not correct.
We are not suggesting this method to discount bills that you already owe. We feel each and everyone should pay their bills on time and in full. However, there are times when you just cannot pay 100% of every bill. Another reason for settling could be you where dissatisfied with the merchandise or service.
If you were dissatisfied with the merchandise, credit card companies have been known to take the bill off your account and charge it back to the store. However, you must notify your credit card company within one month of the purchase date.
If you feel uncomfortable about approaching the creditor yourself, you should hire an accountant, financial consultant, or possibly an attorney to act as your representative. Please check with the professional on how much this will cost you.
If you are handling your own case, at some point you will probably reach a settlement. Percentages vary, however. I had a large chemical client that settled for 20 cents on the dollar. Don't expect to get that low in your negotiations. Settlements vary from 30 to 70 percent, with the majority being around 60 percent.
If you feel you can afford 60 percent, don't start out at 60 percent. If you do you will probably end up at 70 or 80 percent. You must start at around 40 percent if you expect to end up at 60. Remember that the collection department will start high to end up somewhere in the middle.
When you reach a verbal agreement with the collection department have them prepare a SETTLEMENT AGREEMENT and mail it or fax it to you for your review. DO NOT pay your bill prior to receiving this settlement agreement. Arrangements have been known to change from the time of initial phone contact to the receipt of the written settlement agreement. It would also be a good idea to have an attorney review the document for you.
Inquiries - What To Do?
Excessive inquiries on your credit report can short circuit your loan efforts with any lender.
The first thing you have to understand is how inquiries get on your credit report. Any time you apply for credit from any bank, department store or other creditors, they call up a credit report on you. This is called any inquiry, an d the name of the bank will be listed under inquiries for two years. In some cases you will find a bunch of letters and numbers with no names explaining who they are. You will need to ask your credit bureau to verify the names of these individuals.
Unfortunately it is now a common practice for car salesmen to run a credit report on you at 10 different finance companies. Before he spends time showing you dozens of cars, he wants to make sure that you will be approved for the one that you want to buy. If he can't get you approved for ANYTHING, he will move on to the next person. Leaving 10 different inquiries in his wake.
Naturally, if you have many inquiries listed, it looks like you are in financial trouble and are applying for loans all over the city. If four or more inquiries appear on a credit report within a two month period, a message of Trans- Alert is listed on the credit report. This alerts creditors that you have applied for credit an excessive number of times. Trans-Alert appears on the TransUnion statement. Sometimes banks screen your account to see if you will qualify for their credit card promotions and this just adds one problem upon another.
To correct this problem, I believe it is the easiest to deal with the creditor dispute method where you direct your correspondence to the company that listed the inquiry on your report.
In your letter you must ask them for proof that you authorized them to check your credit rating. If they cannot find that proof, they will have to get the inquiry taken off the credit report.
Many times, creditors do not have the time to go back into their records and verify your account, so automatically you win, and it will be deleted off your credit report.
You can also dispute directly with the credit bureau and ask what legitimate business reason they had to give your personal credit information out to "Company Name". If they can not provide this information, please remove the inquiry.
Do's And Don'ts
Do not type your letters, write them in your own hand writing and use your own words as much as possible.
Typing makes the credit bureaus think you are using a credit repair service.
Do not send mail by "Certified Mail."
Do use your own paper or the dispute forms that come with your credit reports.
Do not use legal language.
Do not apply for credit during the dispute process, it could reverse any results you have attained.
Do not call the credit bureaus for any reason! Always correspond through the mail and make copies of your correspondence.
Do keep copies of everything the bureaus send you.
Do be patient but do not give up. Millions of people have had negative items removed from their credit report!
Do not threaten the credit bureaus or tell them that you will hire an attorney if they don't take the disputed items off of your credit report. They know they have to follow the law. Threats will get you no where.
Five Steps To Obtaining A1 Credit
Now that you understand the basics of what credit is, and why it is so important, you are ready to follow our plan to get you well on your way toward building a solvent and solid credit record. Follow our 5 step process and you will finish with 3 bank loans, a Visa and MasterCard credit cards, and at least 2 major department store credit cards. But that's not actually the end - it's just the beginning! You will then be in control of your financial destiny and will be better able to make the kinds of purchases embodied on the American Dream
As you follow each step, remember that lenders and retailers count on making loans or selling goods on credit. The system helps them as much as you. They want to extend credit to you. Through this plan, you make them do so gladly and legitimately.
Step One - Obtaining Bank Loans
Laying the Groundwork
The first objective after removing negative credit from your credit report is to add positives. This can be achieved by obtaining three bank loans to serve as credit references for future maneuvers. Have you ever noticed that most loan applications require three credit references? Follow this first step and you will have three impeccable references to use for various kinds of credit and loan needs.
This step requires some up-front capital to get you going. The results can be achieved using anywhere from $300 and up, although we recommend investing $1,000. Take heart - the money will not be spent, but is used as secure backing in a savings account until the plan is completed. If you need to raise the cash, you can do so through creative means such as a temporary, part-time job or a garage sale. You can also consider borrowing the money because, again, it will not be spent.
Just be careful not to start off with funds that you may be likely to need in the weeks to follow. Withdrawing this money before the plan is completed would jeopardize your credit and potentially leave you in greater debt.
LOCATING THE RIGHT LENDERS
Now you are ready to locate your three lending institutions, which can be banks, savings and loans, or credit unions. You can use the bank where you currently have your checking or savings account, although you will still be opening a new savings account. Use your local Yellow Pages to call area banks and ask these questions:
What is the minimum amount they will loan on a passbook savings account?
What is the percent you can borrow?
For these purposes, you are interested in opening only a regular passbook savings account, so don't get more details than you need about other types of special account and offers.
Choose a lender that offers high yields and allows you to borrow as much as possible against a secured account. We will now label the banks you have selected Bank A, Bank B, and Bank C.
DEPOSIT, BORROW, AND PROSPER!
Go to Bank A and open a savings account worth your $1,000 (or whatever amount you have allocated). This should be an interest-bearing account earning the highest rate you can find. Take your passbook home and wait three days.
Return to Bank A (dressed and poised for success) and ask to see a loan officer. Take your passbook worth you, and explain to the officer that you wish to take out a loan, for which you are willing to place your savings account as collateral. This is the easiest type of loan to obtain because it is completely secured with cash. Be prepared to name a reason for the loan, although it should be granted regardless of the purpose because it will be backed by your savings account. Make sure you obtain an installment loan, amortized over one year with monthly payments required. Remember, you are building credit, so a loan that is due all in one lump sum at the end of 180 or 365 days will not serve your purpose. While a credit check is not always make for this type of loan, be prepared to acknowledge any bad marks on your credit record and explain that you are trying to re-establish your credit. Assure him/her that you will faithfully make your loan payments.
Assume you get a loan for 90% - or $900 - of your savings account, with a 6% interest rate. On a $900 loan you would pay $29.52, owing the bank a total amount over one year of $929.52. Your monthly payments will be $77.46. Once this loan is made, Bank A will freeze your $1,000 so your loan collateral cannot be withdrawn. However, each time you make a payment on your loan, an equal amount (less interest) will be unfrozen in your account and available for withdrawal.
Take your loan check for $900 to Bank B and open another savings account with this amount. Wait three days, and get your second loan - this time for $810 (90% of $900). Your monthly payments here will be $69.71. (Again, assuming 6% interest)
Now use your $810 and open an account at Bank C. Wait three days, and obtain a 90% loan for $729, with monthly payments due of $62.74.
Bank Savings Balance Loan Amount Payment Amount Total Interest Paid
Bank "A" $1,000.00 $900.00 $77.49 $29.52
Bank "B" $900.00 $810.00 $69.71 $29.57
Bank "C" $810.00 $729.00 $62.74 $23.91
By the time you obtain your third loan, about two weeks have passed. You now have three bank loans totaling $2,439 and $729 in cash (your loan from Bank C). How will you pay these loans back? It's easy. Use enough of your $729 to make your first payment on your Bank A loan ($77.46). Do the same at Bank B and Bank C. You should now have made payments that are ahead of their due dates by about one week at Bank A, two weeks at Bank B, and three weeks at Bank C. You have used about $200 of your $729, but you have also freed up frozen funds that can be withdrawn later.
Now wait about another two weeks and repeat the loan payment process described above, making another set of payments with your remaining cash. At this point, you should be approximately one full month ahead on all three loans. With the balance left from your cash loan, make your third set of payments on the second payments' due date. By now, your $729 should be almost depleted. Approach each bank and withdraw the funds that have been unfrozen to use towards your next set of payments.
Continue this process until at least six payments have been made on each loan. You can pay off your loan in full, if you wish, after that point. Do not pay them off before six months, because this is the time frame usually considered when a payment history is calculated as a possible credit reference.
WHAT DID THIS REALLY COST?
In our example, the interest rate charged on the loans was 6%. And, your savings accounts were drawing 2% interest, making your net interest only 4% (6%-2%). We will assume the loans where for one year (12 months) and that you did not pay them off early. Bank loan A for $900 charged $29.52 interest, from which we subtracted $20.18 - the 2% interest you gained from your $1,000 savings - for an actual annual cost of $9.34. If you paid off your loan in six month, it would have cost you even less! Overall, it costs pennies to re-establish your credit using this method!
That's a very small amount to pay for three fast and easy credit references that indicate your ability to acquire bank loans in varying sizes, make you payments ahead of schedule, and pay the loans off completely before due. These activities will all look very impressive on your new credit report! And, you should still have your original $1,000.
Now is a good time to contact your local credit bureau (ask your banks which one they report to) and have this new credit information added to your profile. The bureaus will send you a credit addition form to complete and mail back. There is usually a small fee for each item to be added. They should also send you an updated copy of your new credit report.
Step Two - Secured Credit Cards
How Secured Credit Cards Work:
Now it's time to use these bank references to obtain a credit card. Select on of the banks you particularly liked doing business with and use your initial $1,000 to make a deposit there. After about one week, pick up an application form for either a Visa or MasterCard and fill it out completely at home. Be certain that the card you are applying for allows for cash advances, and include your other two bank references on the application. Then meet with a loan officer at the bank and give him/her your completed form, saying that you are willing to have your $1,000 frozen to secure a credit card with a $1,000 line of credit.
This type of secured credit plan is very common and is available to new credit builders as well as credit builders with a bad history. Similar to your bank loan, your savings is used as collateral for any debts you may accrue using the card. The card will look like any other Visa or MasterCard, so only you and the bank know it is secured by your savings.
Shopping to Build Credit
Once you have your card, use it. It is important now to again demonstrate a good payment record. A credit card that never gets used can actually reflect negatively on your profile!
Go to your local shopping mall and find a store that carries a returnable item in the $500 to $800 range (remember; your credit limit is $1,000). You can select a piece of jewelry, a television, audio or video equipment, or other merchandise within this price range. Make sure you understand the store's return policy - you will need to be able to return the item later for a credit on your charge account, not just store credit. Purchase the single item with your new Visa or MasterCard, take it home, and safeguard against damage or theft. After several days, go back to the store and return the item, requesting a credit on your card.
When you receive your first monthly statement for your card, you will notice a column marked Payments/Credits. Your credit for the returned item will show up in this column, although it looks the same as of you had paid for the item in full. Anyone examining your credit record will see that you made a sizeable purchase and a very early payment.
Obtain a Cash Advance
There is one final step to establishing your good credit record with a credit card company. Stop by a different bank than the one that issued your credit card and ask for a cash advance. Visa and MasterCard allow any lending institution that honors their cards (almost all) to make cash advances for varied amounts up to your credit limit. Some allow only a 25% cash advance, while others will loan your entire amount. Be advised that borrowing money in this manner usually costs more in interest than your card charges for merchandise, so it is not a good way of routinely obtain loans. But it is useful for our credit-building purposes under this plan. Since you will be charged interest on your cash advance from the day you receive it, you may want to time this transaction toward the end of your billing cycle.
Let's assume that you get a 50% cash advance on your $1,000 limit, or $500. Don't spend the money. Put it away and wait for your next monthly statement. Use the money to promptly pay back your cash advance charge on your bill. Now you have used a large amount of your credit limit on two occasions, and your record indicates both were paid back in full. Your credit history is looking better and better!
Step 3 - Un-Secured Credit Cards
Low Interest Pays Off
Before taking specific steps to obtain an unsecured credit card, it really pays to shop around for a bank issuing Visa or MasterCard's at the lowest possible interest rate. The national average is presently at about 19 to 20 percent. At this rate, an average balance of $650 will cost you $123.50 annually in interest charges. The same $650 balance will only cost you $78 on a 12% card - a savings of $45.50 per year.
You also want to consider any annual fee charged for use of the card, which can range from $20 to $50 for premium cards such as MasterCard Gold and Visa Gold. While Gold cards traditionally require a higher annual fee, they typically offer higher credit limits. For the purposes of this plan, we do not recommend obtaining a Gold card. Take a look also at the grace period various banks allow between the time of purchase and when interest starts to accrue. If a bank offers no grace period, you will still be charged interest on your balance in full after each billing period. Again, to find out about rates, fees, and grace periods, you can pull out the Yellow Pages and call around locally. The business sections of major newspapers also often carry ads by local banks promoting the features of their credit cards.
However, you do not need to apply for an unsecured card from a local bank. Computer networking makes it easy to quickly access any bank, and most are eager to have new credit card customers, regardless of where they live. You can find a list of U.S. banks offering low interest rates for Visa and MasterCard in the Bank-lists booklet contained in this document.
Approaching the Bank.
Once again, have the new information about your secured credit card included in your credit bureau file. Now go to a bank and apply for whichever credit card (Visa or MasterCard) you do not already have, using your bank loans and current credit card as references. When the bank refers to your credit file, they will find you have an impressive payment history and another credit card with no outstanding balance. They should be more than willing to give you a regular, unsecured bank card. Freeing up Your $1,000
At last, you need to have your $1,000 savings account unfrozen and the credit card released from it's secured status. Go back to the bank where you began this process, and inform the loan officer you now have an unsecured Visa or MasterCard. Explain that you received this card based upon your excellent payment history you established with their bank card. Ask now to have the hold placed on your savings released. If he/she is hesitant, suggest that you will leave your money in the savings account, But no longer want it frozen. If the officer still seems reluctant, you can politely say that you will then have to return the credit card and close your account with them. In most cases, the bank will not want to loose you as a customer and will honor your request.
However, if these efforts fail, then go ahead and return your card and close your account. Go to the bank that gave you your unsecured credit card. Tell them that you like their services and rates better than where you previously banked and want to shift your Visa or MasterCard (whichever one you do not already have there) to that bank. Your second unsecured credit card should arrive in the mail soon after!
Step 4 - Department Store Credit Cards
With the first three steps completed, you should feel like a credit-building pro and be proud of your new credit profile. This next step is easy. Because you already have a Visa and MasterCard, the credit world is wide open and waiting for you to sign on.
Most major department stores offer a form of instant credit - providing you with their store credit card just because you possess a major credit card, so they can collect the interest instead of Visa or MasterCard! Best of all, department store cards are issued on an unsecured, deposit-free basis!
You usually will be asked to fill out a brief application form, show your I.D., present at least one major credit card - and you are accepted! This can sometimes be done right while you are making your purchase, or at a special customer relations desk. Many stores are even offering free gifts or special discounts to customers applying fir instant credit. Be cautious, however, to apply only for cards in stores that you normally shop at. A dormant credit card does not look good on your credit report.
While many stores of all sizes now offer their own credit cards, for our credit-building exercise it is best to obtain one from a major department store chain with locations around the country.
Department Stores Offering Instant Credit
Below is a partial list of U.S. department stores offering instant credit. Many may have store locations in your area. All stores listed here report to the credit bureaus.
Lord & Taylor
Step 5 - Nurturing Your Credit
Congratulations! By now you have three bank loans, Visa, MasterCard, and perhaps several major department store credit cards. We have has planted all the seeds you need to cultivate a healthy credit profile. Now it's up to you to take care of your new credit record and allow it to grow with you as you build a more secure financial future.
Loan Scoring System
Loan Application Scoring System
Each bank has a credit scoring system that determines the acceptability of the borrower. This scoring system takes into account your income, length of employment and residence, etc.
The five major factors that all lenders give high importance to are:
1. A salary of at least $1,500 per month
2. At least 5 years at present address
3. Employed at present job for at least two years
4. A "paying on time" credit history
5. A telephone in your name
Credit Scoring System
(This is a sample of the system of a major bank.)
When you apply for credit, your application is scored and the evaluated on the basis of criteria given by the bank's Credit Policy Committee. These criteria vary from bank to bank.
Below we have listed the scoring system.
90-100% of possible points
75-89% of possible points
Loan granted unless negative items on credit report
50-74% of possible points
40-49% of possible points
Review with possible rejection
0-39% of possible points
Banks Offering Secured Credit Cards
++Bank of Hoven
26660 Agoura Road
Calabasas, CA 91302
P.O. Box C32131
Richmond, VA 23286
++Key Federal Savings Bank
7 Gwynns Mill CT
Owings Mills, MD 21117
++United Nat'l Bank
675 Franklin Blvd
Somerset, NJ 08873
++First National Bank in Brookings
P.O. Box 6000
Brookings, SD 57006
(605) 696-2323 (605) 692-6294 (605) 696-2296
++First State Bank
P.O. Box 15414
Wilmington, DE 19850
++Security Bank of Hurst Texas
1845 Precinct Rd Suite 100
Hurst, TX 76054
++Central National Bank
Broadway and Charlston at 14th
Mattoon, IL 61938
19590 E. Main Street
Parker, CO 80134
++Budget & Credit Counseling Services, Inc.
P.O. Box 450
Layfayette, IN 47902
P.O. Box 19360
Portland, OR 97280
(541) 889-4333 (541) 889-8606
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